Step Right Up: A Push-Your-Luck Game about Snake Oil Salesmen in the Old West

Halloween 2009 Snake Oil Salesmen
I've been mulling over a push-your-luck game about snake oil salesmen in the old west. I imagine these hucksters rolling into town, setting up shop on a boardwalk and selling as much of their questionable product as possible to duped bystanders. All this before a mob of angry customers comes to collect a refund.

This isn't fully formed yet, but I wanted to get some notes down so it's not knocking around in my head as much. Feel free to comment or adapt as you wish!

The game is comprised of 13d6s, a Noun deck of cards, a Descriptor deck of cards, several Goon meeples and some coins. The Noun cards show words like "Owl" "Chair" or "Underpants." The Descriptor cards shows words like "Sharpener" "Reliever" or "Strengthener." Each card also shows one or two dice results.

To set up the game, deal three Noun cards and three Descriptor cards to each player. Deal three coins to each player. Keep the dice in the center of the table. The last player to sell a product goes first.

On Your Turn
You'll play through three phases: Product, Pitch, and Sale.

Product: Here is where you find out what you're selling to the gullible rubes. Choose one Noun card and one Descriptor card to reveal to the group. For example "Owl Sharpeners" or "Underpants Strengtheners."

Pitch: Time to shout your product's benefits to whoever will listen. Roll three dice from the general supply. Set aside any dice matching the Noun card. These are potential customers. Also set aside any 6s, these are police. You may roll again. If you roll again, you must roll three dice, drawing dice from the general supply as needed. Repeat this process until:
  • You choose to stop rolling.
  • There are not enough dice left in the general supply.
  • You have three or more police. This is means you got arrested. Skip the Sale phase and proceed directly to Jail.
Sale: You almost have 'em, now seal the deal! Roll your potential customers all at once. See if any results match the Descriptor card, you earn coins based on the number of matching results.
  • 1 Match : 1 Coin
  • 2 Matches : 2 Coins
  • 3 Matches : 4 Coins
  • 4 Matches : 7 Coins
  • 5 Matches : 13 Coins
  • 6+ Matches : 20 Coins
Any 6s continue to count as police. Gasp! They were undercover! Add these police to any police from the Pitch phase. If you get three or more police, go directly to Jail.

Each result that matches a previous round's Descriptor card is an angry customer demanding a refund. For each angry customer, pay one coin.

Jail: If you got three total police from both phases, you went to Jail. Ignore earnings or losses from this turn.

Hiring Employees between Rounds
Each player takes one turn in a round. Once the round is over, each player may hire up to five employees for the following price.
  • 1 Employee : 2 Coin
  • 2 Employees: 4 Coins
  • 3 Employees: 7 Coins
  • 4 Employees: 13 Coins
  • 5 Employees : 20 Coins
  • Goons tussle with the police while you're plying your wares. Each goon lets you ignore one police result. You must still set aside that die, but it doesn't count towards your limit. Each goon can only be used once in a turn.
  • Lawyers deal with unsatisfied customers. Each lawyer lets you ignore one refund. You must still set aside that die. Each lawyer can only be used once in a turn.
  • Shills are employees who pretend to be part of the crowd, but are actually working for you. Each shill lets you adjust a 1-5 die result by one increment, higher or lower. (6s are still police results.) Each shill can only be used once in a turn. Several shills adjust a single die result several increments or you can spread your shills across a several dice.

Endgame and Victory
You'll play three rounds. Whoever has the most coins at the end of the game wins!


  1. It's not clear to me – either in the Jail phase text, or in the Sale phase text – whether to add together the police in the Pitch and Sale phases, or to count three separately.

  2. You need to incorporate the important role of the shill. Perhaps they can be purchased in a manner similar to Goons and allow to change dice by one value, either to make a sale, or to distract a police officer.

  3. Sorry! Made that clearer. It's three total across both phases.

  4. Oooh! I like that. Shill lets you re-roll maybe? You could also focus the goon's powers on just the police. The goon lets you ignore a police. The ___ lets you ignore refunds. Lawyer? Insurance?

  5. Alrighty, I diversified the staff a bit. You can now hire goons, shills and lawyers. Each does a different thing.

  6. I think that players should have to explain what owl sharpeners or what-have-you claim to do before they can continue :)

  7. Heh. Perhaps if there was "Speculate" phase where you placed bets on how each player would do? Perhaps that treads too closely to other games though.


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